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    Message From Cyprus Lockdown

    Message from Cyprus – Good News Bad News

    Lockdown in Cyprus Edition Four

    Location: Argaka Cyprus

    Lockdown in Cyprus. It’s day 26 on the island of Cyprus. Of our 26 days here only four of them we were free. March 14-24 in quarantine and March 24 to today in lockdown. Like the rest of the world, we wait. And then we wait some more. Here is the latest;

    Bad News

    On Thursday we participated in a live Facebook feed with the US Ambassador to Cyprus Judith Garber. There was no good news really, she just confirmed everything we already knew. No clear explanation as to why we received an email 10 days ago saying there might be a flight out for US citizens…??? There are no flights in the foreseeable future, even though we hear about stranded Americans in other countries getting out. Cyprus isn’t getting any assistance. By the way…how do you become an Ambassador? I would like that job.

    President Nicos Anastasiades has extended the airport closure until April 18th. I have zero confidence in this date…I expect it will be extended again. We wait.

    Cyprus
    Cyprus in Bloom

    This week lockdown in Cyprus tighter restrictions were put into effect for the stay at home order. We can now only leave the house once a day.

    We are in a dispute with Airbnb now over the $900 from Jerusalem cancellation. They are being nasty. So now we are being nasty back. We did get a credit for Malta but they reversed what they told us about Jerusalem. We wait.

    I had a really bad, teary-eyed day on Thursday. It seemed to me from comments I saw others were melting down too. It’s exactly like grieving – such a feeling of loss. I’m not a psychiatrist or mental health expert but I think this is normal to feel this way…we need to work through it and stay hopeful even when it seems there is little to be hopeful for.

    Cyprus
    Cyprus in Bloom

    I blame a bit of my melancholy on Thursday to the fact that, since I can only leave the house once a day, I didn’t run or work out. Instead we saved our once a day outing to go get some fresh produce at the grocery store. I know I feel better when I work out, and I am forcing myself to run and walk even when I feel tired and sorry for myself.

    The cases on the island continue to grow. As of today 430 with 13 deaths. From 3 cases the day we arrived (March 10) that’s 150 fold increase. We wait.

    Good News

    My husband is keeping my spirits up. While still being realistic about how grave this looks in the months and years ahead, he is always my rock. I just miss my kids so much. We wait.

    We learned that many US Citizens are having difficulty with the SMS system of asking permission to leave the house. Apparently if you are trying to do the request with a phone that does not have a Cyprus SIM it isn’t working. Another reason to always buy a local SIM when you travel rather than trying to use your home carrier’s international data plan.

    Cyprus
    Cyprus in Bloom

    The weather is improving and although still very windy here in this part of the island we are now looking at temps around 23c (mid 70’s f). We are no longer using the heat at night in the bedroom or the space heater in the living room. We are still using blankets on the couch when we read in the evening but it’s at least 15-20 degrees warmer than a month ago. I wore shorts for the first time this week. Maybe those sundresses will see the light of day soon. We wait.

    My goal is to need to turn on the AC before we leave. Arne’s goal is to run ten miles before we leave. Maybe me too.

    I had a wonderful Zoom Meeting with my book club…my first time using that application, followed by a Martini Zoom Party with the Martini Mamas back home. Tonight we plan to zoom with our boys. If I can get the hang of it I have a lot of people I would like to Zoom with.

    Blue dot is where Cyprus is

    Grocery stores are still well stocked and we are not wanting for anything in that area. I’m trying to teach myself some local Cypriot dishes. Our Airbnb hosts (who speak very minimal English) have been so wonderful…bringing us goodies and produce. If we have to be stuck this Airbnb is a good place to be stuck and we are grateful for that. We wish we had some jigsaw puzzles and movies in English though.

    We wait

    Waiting is not something this girl is good at….nor am I good at not controlling my situation. So everything in me is on high-alert during this lockdown in Cyprus. But I am resigned to this being long-term, and I am resigned to waiting.

    Sending you love.

    Read more Messages from Cyprus here.

    Please note we are still posting weekly book reviews on Wednesdays and Travel stories on Friday. We are grateful for your help in keeping our blog alive during this down time.

    Food & Drink  --  Inspire

    My Favorite Coffee Around the World

    Stop and Smell the Coffee

    Location: Around the World

    Lucky am I that I have tasted coffee all over the world, in fact, in 110 countries. Wow that is a lot of countries and a lot of coffee. I do love coffee and although there has been many countries where the coffee was downright lousy or non-existent, luckily there have been many countries where it was delicious and abundant.

    Enjoying Cyprus coffee

    Cyprus

    We are currently hunkered down on the island of Cyprus, where coffee rules. Cypriot coffee is much like the coffee of Turkey or Greece, and is usually made in a Cezva, a metal cooker with a long handle and a pouring lip. The coffee in Cyprus is arabica coffee and is ground so fine it is almost like a powder. Traditionally cooked in sand over an open fire, many traditional houses will still make the coffee in a machine that uses sand very hot, then place the Cezva into the sand and bring the coffee to boil twice.

    I had never seen coffee made in this manner and it was something fun and new to see.

    Brewing over the hot sand

    Cyprus is another of a long list of countries who know how to make good coffee, even though they don’t grow their own beans. Many countries with the best coffee don’t grow beans. It’s all in the way it’s prepared.

    So I thought today I would share with you all my favorite coffee around the world, in addition to Cyprus. Some of the worlds best and most delicious. Whatever you call it; java, joe, mud, cuppa, brew, cafe, octane, rocket fuel or juice – here is my favorite coffee around the world.

    Coffee in France
    Espresso in France 2007

    France

    I visited France in 2007 and despite the Starbucks phenom in the USA, France was the place I had my first and most memorable cup of real good espresso. And I didn’t have just one. I drank so many cups of espresso during my ten day visit to Paris and northern France. I learned how much I love a deep, dark rich cup and I have loved it ever since.

    Italian coffee
    My husband enjoying coffee in Italy

    Italy

    Most people think of espresso as Italian, and certainly they are credited with the invention of the espresso machine. I loved this amazing coffee here as well, and was a bit confused by the social etiquette surrounding your morning coffee. Most baristas were kind and assisted this silly American.

    Ethiopian coffee
    Ethiopian woman preparing the coffee

    Ethiopia

    My 2008 trip to Ethiopia remains one of the highlights of my travel life, and learning the complicated process the Ethiopia Coffee ceremony encompasses is one of the most interesting things I have ever seen. Ethiopians strongly claim their country as the birthplace of coffee, and they take the ceremony of coffee very seriously. You can’t be in a hurry for your morning cuppa here…but it is very much worth the wait.

    Zanzibar Coffee

    Zanzibar

    The beautiful island country of Zanzibar (actually a self-governing island of Tanzania) has many coffee plantations as well as beautiful and interesting spice plantations. On a tour of one of these plantations we learned a lot about the coffee culture of Zanzibar and enjoyed drinking the rich dark brew at Zanzibar Coffee next to our hotel.

    Moroccan Coffee
    Coffee at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca

    Morocco

    There are so many things I love about Morocco, including the food, and the coffee is high up on that list of favorite things. We drank it in all parts of the country and it was rich and delicious no matter where we were. Moroccans could be found drinking it morning and night, but for me I had to stick to the morning, or I would have been awake all night long.

    Greek Coffee
    Coffee in Greece

    Greece

    Another country that really knows how to do coffee is Greece. Like other European countries coffee often comes with a “biscuit” for dipping, and a cup of beautiful dark coffee in the afternoon was my favorite mid-day treat.

    Breakfast in Qatar

    Qatar

    This photo does not do justice to the coffee we had in Qatar. We transited through Qatar and spent only one night, and enjoyed on the morning of our departure what I can say is hands down the best breakfast I have ever eaten…including a pot of delicious brewed dark coffee.

    Vietnam Coffee
    Almost always served in a glass cup in Vietnam

    Vietnam

    We spent a month in Vietnam and really grew to love the coffee there. Often served with sweet milk, but you could order it without, the local coffee was almost always served in a clear glass cup without a handle.

    Guatemalan Coffee
    Coffee in Guatemala

    Guatemala

    When we returned home after our month in Guatemala we brought with us six pounds of coffee…now one of my favorite coffee around the world. The production of coffee is big in many Central American countries, but of all the countries we visited we liked Guatemalan coffee the best.

    Vietnam Coffee
    A special latte made to look like me in Vietnam

    So there you have it, my favorite coffee around the world. I can’t wait to continue my coffee culture research when we can start traveling again and continue our ’round the world travel. Coffee makes me happy!

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    Message From Cyprus Lockdown

    Message from Cyprus

    Edition Three

    Location: Argaka, Cyprus

    Message from Cyprus Lockdown 2020 – Cyprus Day 22. Lockdown Day 8.

    Note: Since Wednesday is a regular blog day for Reading Wednesday, I hope you won’t be confused by this second blog. I’ve never posted two blogs in one day. Please see the Reading Wednesday blog here. Thanks.

    It’s feast or famine here with either a whole lot of nada going on or so much happening it’s overload and hard to keep up.

    Nada

    It’s been seven days since we received an email from the Cyprus Embassy telling us there may be a flight out for US Citizens within 48 hours. Since then we have heard absolutely nothing. I am getting much more information from other embassies around the globe than I am getting from Cyprus. No explanation on their website regarding their silence. Nada.

    HOWEVER tomorrow there is a live Facebook feed for US citizens with the US Ambassador to Cyprus. We will sit in on that and hopefully get some news. Check the My Fab Fifties FB page tomorrow (Thursday) to see if we learned anything.

    Overload

    Every morning I check the Cyprus Mail website for the latest information. On Tuesday further restriction to movement were put into place. Now we can only leave the house once a day, still using the SMS system and asking permission for one of the 8 categories. Which sucks because we have to choose do we go for a run today or do we go to the grocery store. They are also closing grocery stores on Sundays. Locals are really up in arms about all of this…one man laments what is he to do about walking his dogs on a day he needs to go to the store, pharmacy or doctor? Another crazy new rule is anyone who has tested positive and told to self-isolate will be forced to wear monitoring ankle bracelets so authorities can track their movement…just like a criminal.

    Nada

    I’m kinda pissed at Airbnb right now (and ya all know I’m a big fan) but after 22 days we still have not received our refund from Jerusalem that was promised to be sent within ten days. Additionally they aren’t communicating with us any longer. I’m sure they are overwhelmed but all I was looking for was a status for the delayed refund of nearly $900. They have just updated their website however, giving us an option to either get 50% cash back for our Airbnb in Malta or 100% in credit. We are taking the credit…and still waiting about Jerusalem.

    Overload

    The Cyprus Mail has the total number of cases on the island now at 232, despite the fact that last week all signs looked like it was leveling off at just under 200. No such luck. They are now considering loosening restrictions on Cypriots abroad who are trying to return home.

    Nada

    We would like to help local businesses, but the tiny village we are in has no restaurants doing take-out or curbside. We would need to go to the big city of Paphos for that an hour away. So unfortunately we have had zero chance to enjoy the local Cypriot cuisine from local restaurants. So glad we took the cooking class the first few days we were here…it may likley be the only thing we get to do on this beautiful island.

    Overload

    The exasperating news from the USA gives me a headache and I’m trying to train myself to not spend so much time looking at it. It’s grim and the politics of it all makes me sick. If only, if only, if only. Two months ago and things could have been so different – one month ago would have saved lives. It’s sad how many people will die and how many people still can’t see the forest through the trees.

    Nada

    My hands are tied as far as being able to help small businesses back home. Can’t really get take-out can I? I did however order a bunch of Easter yummies for delivery from Boehm’s Chocolates of Poulsbo, owned by a good friend of mine. It’s not much and I wish I could do more.

    Overload

    Spring is in full force here on the island and the pollen is in total overload and the symptom are kinda like Covid; eyes, throat, lethargic. Ugh. Too much.

    Nada

    Cyprus loves its holidays and TODAY is Cyprus National Day – a celebration of the day the war between Cyprus and Britain began in 1955 that eventually resulted in Cyprus Independence in 1959. But, no celebrations anywhere…churches are closed, parks, beaches and no one can gather. Party pooper. I’m interested to see what happens with Easter in this very religious country. Curiously Easter in Orthodox is not celebrated on the same day as everyone else. It’s celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon which in 2020 is April 19th.

    That’s It

    And so we sit tight. Few options but we are still healthy and comfortable. Our Airbnb hosts have been wonderful, continuing to deliver fresh produce and baked goods several times a week. It’s so quiet here…no airplanes and few cars…just the wind and the waves.

    Our original dates on Cyprus were supposed to be March 25-April 7. Our changed plans had us arrive on March 10 and our departure date remains unknown, it could be tomorrow…or it could be in June. Your guess is as good as mine.

    Stay tuned.

    See Message from Cyprus Edition One and Edition Two


    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review City of Thieves by David Benioff

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Book Review City of Thieves by David Benioff

    Note: There will be two blogs today (extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures). I hope you can enjoy both this is the first.

    Such a great story. And a true story too. You will love City of Thieves by David Benioff – his telling of his grandfather’s life during the Nazi’s seige of Leningrad.

    Somehow Benioff has grown up not knowing anything about what brought his grandfather and grandmother to America. He knows his grandfather was a soldier…he has heard it whispered all his life that his grandfather killed two Germans. Is it true? Benioff finally decides to sit down with his grandfather and find out. The story he gets is beyond belief.

    Poignantly told in the view of Lev Beniov, the sweeping tale is both hilarious and terrifying, heartfelt and thrilling. It is a tale of love, friendship, survival, optimism and the deepest and darkest of wartime crimes.

    Benioff is a magical writer and brings the characters so clearly to life through a masterful storytelling talent that will have the reader shivering in the Russian winter snow, feeling the terror of Nazi torture and tasting the warmth of a cup of tea while starving. You will be transported to Russia during World War II. This book review of City of Thieves by David Benioff is a definite thumbs up for a unique WWII story in a current plethora of books on this topic.

    *****Five stars for City of Thieves by David Benioff

    Read last week’s review of The Delight of Being Ordinary

    My current read The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

    Inspire  --  Message From Cyprus Lockdown

    Message from Cyprus

    Location: Argaka Cyprus

    Cyprus Day 19. Lockdown Day 5.

    Message from Cyprus Edition Two

    Note – this will now be a regular update, possibly weekly, in an effort to answer so many questions we are getting and the extreme fluid situation. Love you all.

    Cyprus Musings – things are happening quickly now and all indications from where I sit is the world is in this for a very long haul. We are now receiving notices of flight cancellations we have in the future. We are seeing a lot of activity and messages from the US State Department and embassies we have in our itinerary in the months ahead. We received a notice from the embassy of Cyprus that they are trying to secure a flight for US Citizens. I am normally very decisive but now vacillate over this issue because reports here say Cyprus is nearing its peak in virus cases (approaching 200 cases) and I feel safe here. I feel any movement right now, particularly to the USA; on planes; through airports; with other humans; puts us at high risk. But I also feel we might be in Cyprus for months….three, six, more if we don’t take the last plane out. What to do?

    Getting home would be a comfort…but if I get sick trying to get there it will create a burden for ourselves and those we love. But if we stay in Cyprus we are useless to my family if they need us. And if we get sick here it could be a financial nightmare (yes we have insurance but it still could be costly). 

    Mostly I’m no longer worried about the loss of travel money. It’s irrelevant at this point. 

    When I compare the governments responses between the USA and Cyprus starting when we arrived here 19 days ago I am convinced Cyprus’ quick, decisive and egalitarian approach has saved lives, even though the tight restrictions are causing strife. Nineteen days since we arrived in Cyprus and the USA is still chatting about what to do and state by state mandates are clearly not effective enough for a country the size of the USA. The freedom of assembly will kill us…

    Although surreal, watching the world melt down from here is like a giant movie screen. A horror film. With no end in sight and real people at risk. Any one read Station Eleven? It’s happening.

    Time to think long term my friends…it’s gonna be a long long time until we have anything resembling the old normalcy. Definitely not Easter. Acceptance of the new normal is the healthiest thing we can do now. It’s okay to grieve. But also prepare. Stay safe. Breathe. Don’t stick your head in the sand…we can be kind and compassionate and try to stay positive while distancing and being ready for a long journey.

    We wait.

    Read Cyprus Message Edition One Here.

    Canva

    Everything Else Fabulous

    The Surprising Things You Learn From Full-Time Travel

    Location: Cyprus

    I never ever imagined the word pandemic or quarantine becoming a part of my daily vocabulary. And yet it is. Wow. So many surprising things you learn from full-time travel.

    A world pandemic is at the top of the list of surprising things you learn from full-time travel. I’ve said it many times, despite all the preparation and planning, reading and studying – there still are so many surprising things you see and learn and experience that you never ever imagined. Pandemic one of many.

    Planet in Pain

    So today I thought I would share some of these things, since we are still stuck indefinitely here on Cyprus (currently day four of a new three-week total lockdown), it’s a good time to write a blog about the things you don’t realize you will learn from full time travel. The lessons keep coming but here are a few that stand out for me;

    How the World Views America

    America view

    We try to be good ambassadors for our country, but it can be really hard. Because many people have a view of Americans as loud, selfish, gluttonous and most of all ignorant and misogynistic. The view also extends to American media as biased and unreliable.

    Where are you from?

    My hometown of Gig Harbor

    So we get this question a lot. Sometimes the question is phrased like this; “Where are you from? Australia? England?”

    This always cracks me up because anyone who is a native English speaker is very in tuned to the nuances of those who speak English in the USA vs England, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland etc. But for those whose first language is not English the subtleties are often lost. It’s rare that we get asked if we are from the USA. I believe that is because the countries we are visiting for the most part aren’t often visited by Americans. We are often surprised by how surprised people are to meet someone from the United States.

    But the other odd thing when we get asked this question is how the answer goes. We answer “From the United States”, and 95% of the time we get a blank uncomprehending stare. So we rephrase our answer and say “From America.” Ahhh light bulbs come on and faces light up, “Amerikah!”. Despite the fact there is no country called America…much of the world refers to the USA as America.

    Metric System

    Metric (Canva)

    The USA is only one of three countries in the entire WORLD still not using the metric system (Myanmar and Liberia are the other two). I mean honestly people this needs to change. I have no choice but to learn the metric system as we travel and although I don’t have it down perfectly, yet it is an integral part of everyday life from cooking to driving to filling up the car with petrol. We think in Celsius and kilometers, meters and liters. You should give it a try.

    Holy Days and Holidays

    I left my heart in Guatemala
    Semana Santa

    In the 110 countries we have now visited we have not visited anywhere that celebrates holy days and holidays by spending the amount of money Americans do on holidays. Most holidays are about family and church with minimal decorating and gift giving. One strange thing…they often leave the Christmas tree up (artificial) until spring.

    Airplane Etiquette

    Flying

    Here is a win for the USA. I have been horrified by how some cultures behave on airplanes – ignoring and harassing flight attendants, barging up the aisle on landing and not letting other people get out into the aisle, as well as other rude behavior. We have found this particularly the case in Asian and African countries. In the USA this would be almost unheard of.

    Dogs and Cats

    Dogs and Cats

    It never occurred to me before beginning our travels that we would witness often horrifying conditions for dogs and cats around the world. I can’t and won’t describe some of the things we have seen…things I try to put out of my mind.

    English Speakers

    Do you speak English? (Canva)

    Before embarking on this full-time travel we had visited many countries in the nearly 40 years we have been married. Some of those countries we found communicating easy and others not so much. But in the past decade most countries have begun teaching English in schools and I can’t think of anywhere we have been in the past four years where we have not been able to speak in English to just about anyone we encounter. English is definitely becoming the world language.

    Oh My God

    Sunrise over Rabanal

    This has become a travel joke for us. Everywhere we go, whether or not the place we are in speaks good English or not, the phrase “Oh my God” is used. It is sometimes the only English words some people know. It is used to express frustration and surprise. I’m not sure if most people even know what they are saying – it’s just a colloquial term used around the world similar to Uff Da or Oi Vey or Gesundheit. Oh my God.

    Water

    Drinking water

    Boy oh boy I sure don’t take clean drinking water for granted anymore. It is to me the biggest problem around the world, and it generates another gigantic problem – what to do with all that single use plastic?

    There are some countries and cities making a huge effort. In Antigua Guatemala there are free filtered water stations. In Thailand you can refill giant water jugs for just pennies. Good on ya. I’d love to see this expand.

    Germs and Hand Washing

    We are all now washing our hands more than ever before. But one thing I have witnessed in most countries is very consistent hand washing already…way more than what I see in public places in the USA. Particularly in Muslim countries but in most other places too people wash not just after using the bathroom but frequently throughout the day, before and after meals and in both public and private places.

    Green Africa

    Rwanda

    Hey guess what? Africa is really, really green. So many Hollywood movies and even NatGeo portray it as a barren brown place – and there are certainly some deserts and dry areas. But most of it is so beautiful and green and big and diverse. You really should go there. Any country…just choose one. They are all great.

    Risky Business

    Dangerous Hippos

    I find myself in situations often while traveling that make me pause…what the heck am I doing? Things like being in a sinking boat in a hippopotamus infested lake, swimming next to the edge of Victoria Falls, hiking on a snowy mountain without clampons, standing 4 meters from a wild Silverback gorilla …crazy stuff. Stuff I wouldn’t be allowed to do in the USA because of much tighter laws and a litigation culture that keeps us away from danger. In most of the world, that is not the case.

    Mangos

    So many mangoes (Canva)

    You might think this is a funny category…and it is. But how did I never know how many kinds of mangos, bananas and so many other kinds of tropical fruit were waiting out there for me? There are 500 kinds of mangos for heavens sake! There are 1000 different kinds of bananas! Have you ever eaten a custard apple? How about a dragon fruit? What about a pomelo or jackfruit or langsat? I’ve been living a sheltered life.

    Left or Right

    Left side driving (Canva)

    Although most countries of the world drive on the right hand side of the road, it still is surprising how many countries drive on the left (including here in Cyprus, a former British colony). Even more surprising is a country like Myanmar, which switched from left-hand driving to right-hand driving in 2015 BUT 90% of the cars still have the steering wheel on the right side. Talk about disconcerting.

    Toilet Paper

    What can I say?

    As toilet paper has become such a valuable commodity in the USA I’ve chuckled about how different Americans view the little white squares compared to the rest of the world. Many cultures don’t use paper…the sprayer attached to the toilet does the job. Many countries you must bring your own paper if you want it, and most countries you aren’t supposed to flush it. Including here on Cyprus where flushing is a no no. Systems are not designed to handle paper, and so it goes into the bin next to the toilet.

    It may seem very strange if you haven’t lived somewhere like this but just like anything else you get used to it. I always have TP in my suitcase (and paper towels too) and always have some kind of tissue in my purse.

    Have You Learned Anything

    Have you learned anything crazy and surprising on your travels? Have you learned anything crazy and surprising from this blog? I could go on and on because there is so much more (cheap medical care, free universities, corrupt governments, government supported community days) that most Americans can’t comprehend.

    For me it’s one of the absolutely best things about travel…an eyeopening experience to how the other 96.25% of the world lives. Because get over yourself…the USA is not the center of the universe and we should all try to be more neighborly and interested in our entire planet and the diverse peoples and cultures that make it such a wonderful place.

    Don’t give up on travel…we will all hopefully be back traveling again in a few months. Just wash your hands.

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    Many of the photos in this blog are from Canva.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Delight of Being Ordinary by Roland Merullo

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    This is a fun, sweet (but totally unrealistic) story of how the Pope and the Dalai Lama decided to take a vacation. I enjoyed this lighthearted story and I think you will too.

    As the world has been on lockdown for weeks and months, I came coming back to this story and how it must feel to be someone like Pope Francis or the Dalai Lama whose lives are scheduled to the second and there is no control of your own personal time…ever.

    Maybe they feel the need to “get away from it all” from time to time? Well in this fictional story that is exactly what happens. Many of the steps that take place to make this spontaneous get-away happen are ridiculous and could never really happen in real life, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun story.

    I enjoyed the portrayal of both the Pope and the Dalai, even though for me some of the religious and second-coming references were less believeable. And yet, anyone, whether religious or not will find this story a quick and easy read, with laugh out loud escapades as well as deep perspective moments.

    ****Four Stars for The Delight of Being Ordinary by Roland Merullo.

    Read last week’s review of The Secrets We Kept

    My current read Motherless Brooklyn

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